Aunty, There’s a bad word in the dictation

Day over day, I am surprised by children and their intelligence. Especially when working with the little ones, the ten year olds; I always walk in assuming they know a certain something and nothing more. And then they go out and surprise me.

The following happened today.

VSing, after correcting his partner’s dictation answers: Aunty, That’s a bad word in her dictation answers.

S: How can that be? We aren’t doing bad words here, are we?

VSing, moving closer and whispering his softest: Aunty, You asked us to spell ‘prone’. She’s written ‘porn’.

I do not remember when I first learnt that word, or when I truly understood the meaning of it. But, I am definitely sure it wasn’t in 5th grade, when I was ten.

It got us talking in the staff room about how children these days have too many sources for information, resulting in their innocence being snatched away earlier than normal. I can imagine a situation where this child read the word in a book that he was reading, or heard it in a movie/series that he was watching, and got curious about what it meant. A truly progressive family would have parents that are approachable enough for this child to ask them about it. In which case, he wouldn’t have associated the term ‘bad word’ with it. Which makes me think that the child resorted to other means of identifying the meaning of the word – the mighty dictionary, or better yet, a more knowledgeable sibling or friend.

And that second alternative worries me.

What worries me more is my acting casual about his observation, and moving on to the next ‘good’ word in the dictation. Should I have used that time to address the taboo associated with the word? But would it have been too early for these young minds? As teachers, we always talk about how the best time to give children sex education is when it comes up naturally in the class discussions. Was today one of those natural ways? Did I miss an opportunity to tell them about sex in the right way?

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Day 9: Of growing women and sex education

It has always pricked my mind to ride a car to college all by myself. For someone trying to be considerate about one’s impact on the environment, avoiding this selfish, fuel-guzzling mode of travel seems like the least one could do. But when circumstances forced that to be the only feasible mode of transport for me, I started exploring options to car pool, so that we are at least sharing the load on poor mother earth. While this might make me come off as overly clingy (doesn’t she have other friends!), or a little psychopathic tending towards a sex offender (Cmon! Who offers a car ride without some ulterior motive, right?), I was doing it purely to share the ride with another.

And so, Tooti and I drove back from college together. She is a peppy kid pursuing her undergraduate course in bio-technology, and a great bharatnatyam dancer. I’ve noticed her before for her quirky whatsapp status messages and that’s exactly what got the conversation going today. “You reveal more than me and yet I’m always criticized. Why? A distressed crop-top asked a saree

There began our ride talk and it went from the culture stereotype that a saree brings in, to even the 9 yard revealing more than what it should, to teachers always having to confine to the stereotype of being saree clad for being taken seriously. This was some ten minutes into the ride and I completely lost track of time or the flow of thoughta after that.

We spoke about sex education in schools, or the lack of it entirely. It seems that even now, the tenth graders get a gist of sex education, through a gruesome video that is cringe-worthy. We commented about our mutual disbelief at how little our parents are ready to talk to us about sex, and how most girls learn about sex from their friends or cousins, or the all-knowing porn industry.

We realized that the problem was worse with men, who are barely given information about menstruation and the associated problems. Most men see their mothers, sisters and even wives go through it and yet it’s a topic of utmost taboo to talk about. Imagine the quality of life of a married couple, where an entire perspective of the wife is unknown to the man, and they choose to not even talk about it.

All my friends are making out for at least 40 minutes every day“, she said, wondering aloud if she did a mistake by breaking up with her boyfriend of three years. That led us to talking about pop culture and peer pressure and how it drives our relationships these days. Girls flaunt the ‘bases’ that they progressed with their partner, like a baseball trophy to be proud of. This peer and media-induced pressure is making girls like Tooti wonder if they were wrong by holding their ground and not putting out. “What if it was really love, and I should have allowed him to experiment?“, she questions herself.

We laughed at our parents and how unsure they are about talking to us about these sensitive topics. While her generation seems to have progressed and her father was okay about her watching a kissing scene on TV, I only remember awkward side-glances when someone on TV got cost when I was growing up.

All this talk made me realize that a major gap in Indian education system is the lack of awareness given about these real-world issues. What if each school had an S, for the Tootis and others in the school to go and ask their doubts to, and get answers alone – not judgements? What if the counselors in schools are able to build such a rapport with the students that they are able to have such ride talks, and walk out with a smile and a ‘we definitely have to talk some more’? What if the education system broke all stereotypes in the society and let children be children?

Deep, man! I’m just gonna lie here while you rant about sex ed and what not. Poor lasses like me don’t have to worry about such things. 

For us, the struggle is more real: like will I get 1 egg for lunch or 2.” Scotch 

Napping, leaving the worries to the world.